Thursday, May 13, 2010
Thursday, May 6, 2010
The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 998.5 points intraday. It happened so fast that if you were in the restroom or doing paperwork, you missed it. The market recovered about 650 points of that drop by the close.
Here are some of my initial reactions to what it all might mean...
1. For starters, let's all keep in mind that these things don't happen in a healthy tape. The jitters from Greek rioting and possible contagion were the necessary preconditions for a crash like that.
2. The "Fat Finger" thing is nonsense. Maybe someone made a sizable error, but one cannot deny the fact that the algo-driven tradebots poured gasoline on the fire. The machines were triggering stops and wrecking everything in sight before human beings with qualitative senses could get a handle on what was happening. Congress is planning the hearings as we speak.
3. For me to enter a sell order for a retail brokerage client of 500 shares of Microsoft ($MSFT), I need to go through 3 screens of verification and order confirmation. How is it possible that someone with the clearance to sell 16 billion shares of the S&P Spider could even have a typo? If I have 3 screens to confirm a trade, how much order verification does he have?
4. Look at your keyboard...the "M" for million is not even next to the "B" for billion. There's an "N" in between the two keys. Dude, how fat is your finger?
5. If you were intentionally trying to chase the last of the individual investors from this market you couldn't have written a better script than "accidental trade vaporizes trillions in value from US stocks". People are just disgusted already.
6. Cramer was so money today. Whatever you think about him in general, he's the guy that came on CNBC down 1000 and told you that these were fake quotes, to go buy Proctor & Gamble ($PG) down 20 points. He was cool, calm and perfect in that slot.
7. We still don't know whether or not any of the trades from that session will be unwound by broker/dealers. There were a ton of stop loss orders hit and people missed fills entirely in many cases. We should hear about that soon. Let the bickering begin!
8. Anyone who told you he bought down 1000 is lying to you. Bids were raised off those levels in seconds.
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
No individual raindrop ever considers itself responsible for the flood.”May 2010 flood ,Nashville, TN.
"Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope... and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance."
- Robert F. Kennedy
Monday, May 3, 2010
From the man who coined Goldman Sachs (GS) the "vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity" ... we have Matt Taibbi's latest take via Rolling Stone. Again, let it be said that some of the best work on our financial oligarchy is being done by a guy in a music magazine. That tells you what a farce corporate media has become. Then again, when almost all outlets are funding the same lobbyist groups (or mirror images) as those funded by the banking cartel... is is surprising?
Some great cutaway quotes:
Just under a year ago, when we published "The Great American Bubble Machine" [RS 1082/1083], accusing Goldman of betting against its clients at the end of the housing boom, virtually the entire smugtocracy of sneering Wall Street cognoscenti scoffed at the notion that the Street's leading investment bank could be guilty of such a thing. Attracting particular derision were the comments of one of my sources, a prominent hedge-fund chief, who said that when Goldman shorted the subprime-mortgage market at the same time it was selling subprime-backed products to its customers, the bait-and-switch maneuver constituted "the heart of securities fraud."
Goldman isn't dead – far from it. But this new SEC suit officially places it at the center of a raging national discussion about the hopelessly (BLEEP!) state of American business ethics. As a halting, first-step attempt at financial regulatory reform makes its way toward a vote in the Senate, the government has finally thrown open the door and let a few of the rottener skeletons tumble out.
On the surface, the failure-to-disclose rap being leveled at Goldman feels like a niggling technicality, the Wall Street equivalent of a tax-evasion charge against Al Capone. The bank will try and – who knows – might even succeed in defending itself in a court of law against these charges. But in the court of public opinion it was doomed the instant the SEC decided to put this ghastly black comedy of a fraud case on the street for everyone to see.
In metaphorical terms, Paulson was choosing, as sexual partners for future visitors to the Goldman bordello, a gang of IV drug users, Haitians and hemophiliacs, then buying life-insurance policies on the whole orgy. Goldman then turned around and sold this poisonous stuff to its customers as good, healthy investments.
These flighty Tourre e-mails boasting of cashing in on a disaster and chuckling over the "surreal" experience of power-lying right in the face of a business partner are Goldman's very own Ben Roethlisberger drunken (BLEEP!)-waving moment. It is hard to imagine any company from now on doing business with Goldman and not picturing its fruitcake executives text-boasting to each other about the pleasures of screwing over their own clients.
So within the space of a few days, Goldman issued three different explanations, which progressed from (a) we absolutely, positively didn't do it, to (b) if we did do it, we didn't make any money doing it, and finally on to (c) if somebody did it, it was only that French cat Tourre, and here's his head if you want it. These guys couldn't find the truth if it was sitting in their lap playing the ukulele, and that's the basic problem that the entire financial-services sector – an industry that requires trust and confidence to thrive – is struggling to overcome.
And finally... and Matt should of added at the end ... "thankfully, you dear reader - at least if you are in the United States, have an explicit backstop of all this so the next time these bets go bad en masse.... we'll be needing your grandkids money, thanks! Until then Goldman will be able to fund themselves at below market rates aka Fannie, Freddie since everyone knows the government will protect them... heads they win, tails they still win. It's like your local gambling sharkie- fully backstopped by the United States of Oligarchy."
In the year since – and this, to me, is the main lesson from the SEC case against Goldman – the public has quickly come to accept that when it comes to the once-great institutions of modern Wall Street, literally no deal that makes money is too low to be contemplated.
There is more fraud out there, and everyone knows it: front-running, manipulation of the commodities markets, trading ahead of interest-rate moves, hidden losses, Enron-esque accounting, Ponzi schemes in the precious-metals markets, you name it. (no Matt - that's crazy talk! shhh! All that is happening is a few good hearted insitutions are "creating liquidity" - just ask them.) We gave these people nearly a trillion bailout dollars, and no one knows what service they actually provide beyond fraud, gross self-indulgence and the occasional transparently insincere public apology. (liquidity Matt!!)
The Goldman case emerges as a symbol of all this brokenness, of a climate in which all financial actors are now supposed to expect to be burned and cheated, even by their own bankers, as a matter of course.
Sunday, May 2, 2010
"Arizona: The Wrong Answer"
by Desmond Tutu
"I am saddened today at the prospect of a young Hispanic immigrant in Arizona going to the grocery store and forgetting to bring her passport and immigration documents with her. I cannot be dispassionate about the fact that the very act of her being in the grocery store will soon be a crime in the state she lives in. Or that, should a policeman hear her accent and form a "reasonable suspicion" that she is an illegal immigrant, she can - and will - be taken into custody until someone sorts it out, while her children are at home waiting for their dinner.
Equally disturbing is what will happen in the mind of the policeman. The police talk today about how they do not wish to, and will not, engage in racial profiling. Yet faced with the option of using common sense and compassion, or harassing a person who has done nothing wrong, a particularly sinister aspect of Arizona's new immigration law will be hanging over his head. He can be personally sued, by anyone, for failing to enforce this inhumane new act.
I recognize that Arizona has become a widening entry point for illegal immigration from the South. The wave has brought with it rising violence and drug smuggling. But a solution that degrades innocent people, or that makes anyone with broken English a suspect, is not a solution. A solution that fails to distinguish between a young child coming over the border in search of his mother and a drug smuggler is not a solution. I am not speaking from an ivory tower. I lived in the South Africa that has now thankfully faded into history, where a black man or woman could be grabbed off the street and thrown in jail for not having his or her documents on their person.
How far can this go? We lived it - police waking a man up in the middle of the night and hauling him off to jail for not having his documents on his person while he slept. The fact that they were in his nightstand near the bed was not good enough.
Of course if you suggested such a possibility today to an Arizona policeman he would be adamant that he would never do such a thing. And I would believe him. Arizona is a long way from apartheid South Africa. The problem is, under the new law, the one or two who would do it are legitimized. All they have to say is that they believed that illegal immigrants were being harbored in the house. They would be protected and sanctioned by this law.
Abominations such as apartheid do not start with an entire population suddenly becoming inhumane. They start here. They start with generalizing unwanted characteristics across an entire segment of a population. They start with trying to solve a problem by asserting superior force over a population. They start with stripping people of rights and dignity - such as the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty - that you yourself enjoy. Not because it is right, but because you can. And because somehow, you think this is going to solve a problem.
However, when you strip a man or a woman of their basic human rights, you strip them of their dignity in the eyes of their family and their community, and even in their own eyes. An immigrant who is charged with the crime of trespassing for simply being in a community without his papers on him is being told he is committing a crime by simply being. He or she feels degraded and feels they are of less worth than others of a different color skin. These are the seeds of resentment, hostilities and in extreme cases, conflict. Such "solutions" solve nothing. As already pointed out, even by people on the police force, Arizona's new laws will split the communities, make it less likely that people in the immigrant communities will work with the police. They will create conditions favorable to the very criminals these laws are trying to disarm.
The Latinos in Arizona have not come to Arizona because they want to live in communities wracked with violence and crime. I would guess that the most recent arrivals have fled their border towns and the growing violence there as drug lords tightened their control of the communities. They want to live and raise their children in peace, just as you or I do. I am certain that, given the chance, the leaders of the Latino immigrant communities in Arizona would enthusiastically work with the state to find constructive solutions to these problems. I am very sure that they would like, as much as others, to rid Arizona of the drug smugglers, human traffickers and other criminal elements infiltrating their communities.
We can only hope that this law will be thrown out of the courts in short order. I do not disagree with the calls to boycott the businesses in the state until it is turned around. In the meantime, it has opened the door to some smart state leaders sitting down with the leaders of the Latino communities in Arizona and hammering out some solutions that actually work. Hopefully these solutions would recognize the difference between a drug smuggler and a man willing to stand outside a gas station in the hot sun for hours in the hopes that someone will give him some work for the day.
The problem of migrating populations is not going to go away any time soon. If anyone should know this, it should be Americans, many of whom landed here themselves to escape persecution, famine or conflict. With the eyes of the world now on them, Arizona has the opportunity to create a new model for dealing with the pitfalls, and help the nation as a whole find its way through the problems of illegal immigration. But to work, it must be a model that is based on a deep respect for the essential human rights Americans themselves have grown up enjoying."